Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why I'm probably switching from Ubuntu, pt 2 (present)

As I was saying in my previous post, some things began happening with Ubuntu that I haven't particularly been too fond of, especially recently.

To sum it up, I think the focus of Ubuntu has moved away from a distribution which is easy to use while still pretty stable, to one that is more concerned with features. It seems to me that the developers, and probably the leadership, are more concerned with adding new bells and whistles than they are with spending time making sure what they have works. And that's pretty frustrating when you use Ubuntu on a daily basis at work and home.

To be sure, there are bugs that arise every time a new version of pretty much anything comes out. Even companies with gobs of money, like Microsoft (especially Microsoft), can't catch everything. But it seems like the past couple upgrades of Ubuntu have brought quite a few relatively minor bugs, that are collectively driving me crazy.

I'm currently using Ubuntu 10.04 at work now. It's called a "Long Term Support" release, which means it will be supported for two years. To me, that means it should probably be pretty stable. And it is relatively stable, but it's also got quite a few annoying bugs that I encounter on a daily basis:

Okay, so those are a few of the annoying bugs I've dealt with. Now, for some of the annoying "features":

  • Window buttons (close, maximize, etc.) were consolidated and moved to the left.
    Sounds silly to complain about, I know, but I can't help but feeling like Mark Shuttleworth simply made this decision on his own, especially when I've only heard complaints about it. It doesn't seem to me like this was a community decision, but maybe that's just one of the things you have to deal with when one person has so much say over something. By the way, if you don't like this, you might want to go here and vote: Not sure it will accomplish anything, but it doesn't hurt.

  • Empathy was chosen to replace Pidgin.
    Okay, I ,know telepathy is a better basis for a chat client than libpurple, but that doesn't mean Empathy is better than Pidgin. It's extremely basic and has no support for text formatting or buddy pounces (the developers refuse to implement the latter: As far as I understand, they don't even have a plugins API: How is that better, again? And which Ubuntu users were involved in that decision?

  • Ubuntu One
    I installed the Ubuntu One Firefox plugin. Firefox restarted, never came up. I tried again, nothing I know it's new technology, but did anyone even test this thing? I installed the Tomboy notes plugin, and now they go grey every few minutes (not allowing me to type or even select text), even though I have them set to sync once a day.

  • More bad decisions, like being intentionally excluded from the distro and repositories.

How is it that Ubuntu 10.04 came out nine months ago, and yet these bugs still exist, especially when it's an LTS release?

I guess the bottom line for me is that while all of these issues are relatively minor, they all add up. What they're adding up to is a distribution that's off-focus, and what I'm left with every six months (each time a new version of Ubuntu is released) is a distribution with more new bugs that could have been fixed if a minority at the top didn't have developers spending their time instead on more new features that I didn't ask for.

Am I being dramatic? Perhaps. But when I'm at work, I need to be getting work done, not dealing with a thousand paper cuts that these new bugs and "features" have become.

Up next, the future. Well, some possibilities at least.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why I'm probably switching from Ubuntu, pt 1 (past)

I feel like I've recently begun a journey, and although I'm not sure where the destination will be yet, I'm pretty sure it doesn't involve Ubuntu. Before I go into why I'm considering switching from Ubuntu, I suppose I should start with how I started using it.

When I started using GNU/Linux (henceforth abbreviated to Linux, cause, well, I'm lazy) in the late 90's, there weren't many options. I tried Red Hat, but even the most basic tasks (like flash or mp3 support) seemed to require a gajillion commands that I frankly wasn't familiar with nor did I have the patience for. I eventually happened upon a copy of Mandrake in a store, and although I didn't use it very much, it became my distro of choice for quite a while. I remember I liked it because it made the simple things relatively simple.

At some point, however, I realized that it wasn't really all that stable. The system would give me problems on a regular basis, and I began looking around at other distributions. Red Hat, while stable, still didn't make life any easier. I tried Debian but couldn't even get past the installation. For a while I dabbled with Slackware, but that was just too much work.

Around this time, Ubuntu came out. Mind you, it seems like a new distribution of Linux pops up nearly every week, and it's been that way for a while, so I didn't pay too much mind to it at first. But then I began hearing things. Good things. Often. Finally, a close friend convinced me to try it out.

It was a bit hard at first to get used to a .deb-based distro (as opposed to .rpm-based). But I soon forgot about that, because what I found was a distribution that was easy to use, with some of the latest software (like Mandrake), pretty stable, and with an ever-growing support community. I've been using it ever since.

I'm using it right now, in fact.

Maybe I'm just slow, but it seems like recently that my path, which has been following the path of Ubuntu for years now, has started to go places that I really don't want do go, however.

And on that note, I'll leave you to ponder where those places might be, until another time.